Make Thrift Mend is an art project focused on sustainable fashion, social practice, “art as action”, and reclaiming traditional garment-making skills. This project is also a fast-fashion fast where I abstained from purchasing any new clothing from August 1, 2013- August 1, 2014. Outraged by the factory collapse in Bangladesh in spring 2013 killing more than 1,000 workers; inspired by the NPR interview with Elizabeth Cline author of, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion; and prompted by Natalie Chanin’s blog post regarding slow design I needed something to change. I used this information to inspire a process-based art project that would allow me to study slow fashion, stage a personal artist’s protest, and delve deeper into the intersection of art, fashion, and sustainability.
From August 1, 2013- August 1, 2014 I committed to a fast-fashion fast. As part of my journey to resist the fast-fashion industry and it’s unethical labor and ecological practices, I focused on making my own clothing; shopping for only thrifted, vintage, and/ or used clothing; and learning the disappearing crafts of mending, darning, preserving, and making garments. I took this investigation one step further by purchasing only used clothing that was made of natural materials (cotton, linen, wool, hemp, silk, etc) to reduce the petrochemicals in my closet. This was just the first year of this project.
I taught workshops, hosted gatherings, secured grants, built a project website, and shared various resources throughout the year. At the end of the first year I realized I had only scratched the surface of this work and recommitted to another year of abstaining from fast fashion, though from August 1, 2014- August 1, 2015 I would also consider purchasing new clothes from sustainable, independent, and local sources. At the end of this second year I decided to lift the parameters to include new clothing that was ethically made and at the end of the third year I turned towards my tools and materials to be as sustainable as possible.
What was initially a one-year art project has turned into a lifestyle change, a deep joy and gratitude towards my wardrobe, and a shift in my studio work as a fiber artist. Through this continued project I now teach workshops across the country focused on mending, natural dyes and rethinking fashion; write articles and blog posts on the slow fashion movement; and sometimes offer mending kits, original art, or other textile objects related to sustainable fashion. For more information join my newsletter for monthly updates or visit the News section of my website.